- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - Down by 13 and on the verge of getting blown out, No. 9 Arizona State nearly pulled off a stunning rally.

The Sun Devils hope that falling short against No. 19 Stanford on Saturday night in the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals will help them in their next stop in the NCAA Tournament.

“There are a lot of good things we’ll take from this game heading into the NCAAs, that I know we’re going to be that much better for it,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We haven’t lost a lot this year, so some good learning opportunities.”

Amber Orrange scored 18 points, Taylor Greenfield’s driving basket with 44 seconds left gave Stanford the lead for good and the Cardinal held off Arizona State’s comeback for a 59-56 win.

Orrange scored 15 points in the first half and was part of Stanford’s decisive run midway through the second half that turned a four-point lead into a 13-point advantage.

Orrange, Bonnie Samuelson and Briana Roberson all knocked down 3-pointers as Stanford (23-9) took a 50-37 lead. The Cardinal needed every bit of that cushion as Arizona State rallied to take a 56-55 lead with 2:19 left. Greenfield’s basket proved to be the winner as part of wild final minute filled with fouls, turnovers, blocked shots and Elisha Davis’ 3-point attempt to tie at the buzzer falling short.

Sophie Brunner led Arizona State (27-5) with 14 points.

“Basically told them, like, you better decide if you want to win this game or you’re going to get blown out, and they decided,” Turner Thorne said. “I think from that point on, if you look at it, we had a huge run. We came back, and we even took the lead. So that’s just such toughness and resiliency for this team.”

Greenfield finished with 17 points including a key offensive rebound and free throw with 10 seconds left after Kaylee Johnson split her free throw attempts.

Arizona State snapped a 16-game losing streak to Stanford, winning on the road in January, and became the first conference team to sweep the Cardinal in the regular season since 1988 when the Sun Devils won 53-52 at home in early February.

Arizona State rallied quickly, going on a 14-2 run and pulling within 52-51 on Davis’ 3-pointer with 3:59 left. Samuelson answered with a deep 3 as the shot clock was about to expire, but Davis hit another 3 out of a timeout. After a Stanford offensive foul, Katie Hempen’s two free throws gave Arizona State a 56-55 lead with 2:19 left.

Kelsey Moos missed a chance to extend Arizona State’s lead and Greenfield scored to put Stanford back ahead. Arizona State went to Brunner, but her shot was blocked by Johnson and went out of bounds to Stanford.

With only one team foul, Arizona State committed five fouls over 7 seconds, but as they attempted to commit the sixth and put Stanford in the bonus, Samuelson lost the ball out of bounds. The Sun Devils went to Davis, but her shot in the lane was blocked by Johnson. She was fouled and hit the first free throw before missing the second that was rebounded by Greenfield.

“We knew we had to go at that moment,” Brunner said. “We couldn’t keep waiting and waiting to get the lead back. So we just started chipping away slowly but surely, and we gave ourselves a chance at the end, but we just couldn’t finish.”

While Arizona State fell short, Stanford will play for its 11th conference tournament title on Sunday.

“Credit us for staying with things and getting the ball in when we had to, going to the free-throw line and making some free throws when we had to,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “… We’ve played in a lot of close games this year, and I think our team showed some really good poise.”


Stanford: The Cardinal committed 17 fouls in the second half and until the final minute Arizona State had been called for only one. Stanford shot just five free throws.

Arizona State: Hempen, the Sun Devils’ leading scorer, was held to five points.


Stanford: The Cardinal will face rival California in the tournament title game Sunday.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils await their NCAA tournament seed and will likely host first and second round games.

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